As owner of Kindred Acres Farm, 17 individual animals, owner of a boarding stable, a professional pet sitter, behavior consultant and dog groomer, I encounter senior pets every day. As our pets age their needs change. Pets live longer and there are more options available medically and nutritionally to increase the likelihood of our special family members staying with us for many more years. While working with so many wonderful pets on a daily basis, I have gained some experience along the way that may benefit owners and their seniors.
As our pets age they may not be as active and it is natural to see a decline in activity but exercise is still very important to the health of your senior pet. Weight is a very important factor in longevity, we want to spoil our pets, however overweight pets can develop health problems and their lifespans can be shortened if they are allowed to become obese.
For dogs weight control can be as simple as buying a healthier senior dog food and being conscious of what fillers are used in the brand you choose. There are several human grade dog foods (this means in USDA standards the ingredients are based on what is aloud in human food and not just everything including really gross stuff you really don't want to know about). To give you a visual of what I mean, try thinking about a porterhouse steak compared to a hamburger. These brands may cost more but save money in the long run because you feed less food per serving, doesn't have as many fillers and you may save money in veterinarian bills. Besides a healthy senior dog food, you can add healthy ingredients like green beens or ground carrots to your dog's portion without adding the calories and also getting the benefit of extra nutrition. A severely overweight pet may need careful portion control.
If you have an overweight dog or cat consider doing some research on the internet and give them some tough love by changing their diet because you want them to be around a long time. A good example of how much your pet will benefit from doing this is evidenced in our newest family member, Cooper. Cooper is a Shetland Sheep dog we aquired from the dog warden. He weighed in at 40 pounds, his teeth were black with tarter and his gums were swollen. In addition to this, at four years old he could not run or jump on the couch and he was physically at the age, according to our vet, at about eight years old.
We immediately went to work on his teeth and his diet. Teeth problems can cause heart problems and the vet usually has to sedate the pet in order to clean teeth. Cooper began his cleaning program once a day with a cotton wipe wet with hydrogen peroxide. By the end of the week the swelling in his gums receded and his teeth began to whiten as the tarter melted away. A quick checkup for his shots with our vet and he got the seal of approval, teeth and gums looked great. An added bonus to regular cleanings this way is the breath is improved greatly!
Cooper,s back legs were bowed a bit from his impressive girth. Cooper got a much scaled down amount of nutricious dog food supplemented with healthier treats and began to loose weight. A Sheltie is supposed to weigh 25 pounds not 40. In the first month, he went from not being able to run or even trot to being able to run at short bursts and make the jump to the couch. Cooper is still on his diet and doing great but the vet said it would take a full year to get him where he needs to be. That is how many dog years?
Cancer is prevalent in our pets today and steals away our beloved family members much to soon. There is no magic way to completely prevent it but there are some things I feel can help sometimes such as:
- Healthier more natural foods
- Stainless steel dishes (plastic has toxins)
- Natural cleaning products
- Using bottled or filtered water instead of tap or well
- Keeping in line with the proper weight for the breed
- Don't smoke around your pet
- Get regular check ups and if you feel like something is wrong, trust your instincts
- Think before you have your lawn treated with chemicals
- Ask your vet about vaccinating every three years
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